True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten Talks About Living A Healthy and Balanced Life

June 1, 2009 by  

ryan-kwanten-muscleJim Schmaltz from Muscle & Body magazine had the opportunity to speak with Ryan Kwanten recently who plays Jason Stackhouse, the town Casanova, in Alan Ball’s hit HBO TV Series True Blood.    Mr. Schmaltz finds out that Ryan is not just an amazing Australian actor who can convincingly play a Southern but a world-class athlete who enjoys triathlons, yoga, hiking and surfing just to name a few of the outdoor activities that helps him maintain his well-chiseled physique.

The 32 year old Australian actor is drawing lots of attention from fans of True Blood because his amazing physique that is constantly on display because of the limited amount of clothing that the show puts him in.  However, his great physique is not the result of Hollywood trainers but due to Ryan’s own upbringing with a focus on physical activity.  His father, a champion paddle boarder and his mother a avid runner created a environment where both Ryan and his two brothers participated in various physical activities in his native Australia.

“I always grew up with physical activity, so now it’s just a part of who I am,” he says. “I do a little something every day. Even when I’m working, I’ll go home and run on the soft sand at two in the morning. No matter the time, even if I have to wake up at four, I do whatever [exercise] I can. If  I don’t then I’m not me.”

Ryan states during the interview that True Blood is an amazing piece of work created by Charlaine Harris and adapted by Alan Ball who creates this world of vampires who come out of the closet and try to be accepted by mainstream society but face various prejudices and barriers.  The show is know for its racy take on vampires, forbidden lusts and its ability to make a social commentaries about society.

“It amazes me when people compare True Blood to Twilight,” says Kwanten. “The only similarity is the fact that we both have vampires. The characters and different group dynamics that Alan manages to create and the issues that he confronts are so far beyond other vampire shows.”

Playing the role of Jason Stackhouse can be challenging and demanding in terms of trying to master a southern accent as an Australian and portraying a simple-minded, sex-crazed small town boy, that in every essence is the complete opposite of Ryan.  As a way to unwind and escape the demands of the show and the craziness of Hollywood, Ryan moved to a residence seven years ago that is close to the ocean and sand that brings solace to him.

“It was important to find a place that was as close to where I’m from to help with my home-sickness because I’m very close with my family,” says Kwanten, who grew up near a small lagoon that was five-minute stroll from the beach. “It had to be by or near the water. I don’t think I’d last a week in Hollywood itself. I like to think I’m a masochist at heart [laughs] but I couldn’t do that. I think that saltwater and the saltwater breezes tend to chill people out. Literally, when I cross a certain street heading back home, I can feel my heart rate and pulse drop and my shoulders relax.”

Before True Blood Ryan was known to Australian audiences for his role as a lifeguard in the TV series “Home and Away.” It was on that show that women were first exposed to Ryan’s physique and now American audiences have been granted the pleasure by watching Ryan play the regularly shirtless Jason Stackhouse on True Blood.  However, Ryan is quick to put out that he doesn’t see himself as a sex symbol and that he doesn’t want to be typecast as the “hunky Australian dude with his shirt off.”

“I’m confident with who I am. I know what I’m capable of, and without sounding like an egomaniac, I have no problems quashing anyone’s expectations. Whenever they say I can’t do something, it just inspires me more to do it. If somebody tells me that’s my pigeonhole, I guarantee you I’ll break out of that.”

true-blood-ryan-kwantenBelieve him. In his short career, Kwanten has displayed remarkable range in character if not clothing. He’s excelled in soaps, horror movies, children’s sci-fi, comedies, and even played a U.S. Marine in “Law and Order: SVU.”

A former welterweight boxing standout as a teenager (he was state champ for two years at ages 13–15), Kwanten harbors an intense competitive hunger that requires multiple outlets. A natural-born swimmer, the actor competes in triathlons, but these days he settles for biathlons due to time constraints. And, yes, he’s mastered those as well. He won the L.A. Biathlon series two straight years (2006, 2007), qualifying him for the world championships.

“It’s interesting that I chose an art form to make a career out of because I still bring that natural competitiveness to acting,” he says. “I always want to do the best in every single scene and put everything into it. But [acting] is one of those things where you have to pat yourself on the back at the end of the day because there’s no real finish line.”

So how does Ryan maintain his amazing physiques that seems to have no body fat and rippling muscles?  Anything that gets him moving.  He has mentioned many time before that he enjoys hiking, surfing, bicycling, running on the sand and yoga.  Yes, yoga.  Something that does not seem to fit in with the vigorous activities that Australian males would participate in but seeing his own mother’s problems with her back made Ryan realize that he too needed to address his own lack of flexibility.

“I think it’s important to get your sweat on and to not just limit yourself to one particular sport,” he says of his varied fitness interests. “To do nothing but lift weights to me would be a quick death. Life has too many great things to offer in terms of physical exertion. I think you always need a sense of clarity, whether you get it through meditation or going for a hike, when it comes to bettering your life. It may not work for everybody, but it does for me. I come from a somewhat of a macho background when it comes to sports,” says the former boxer. “When a friend of mine suggested I try yoga to help with flexibility, I said, ‘No, that’s more for the girls. It’s not my cup of tea.’ But I tried it and it beat me up. That first class I was looking across the room and seeing girls and even guys putting their feet behind their heads, and I thought, Wow, that’s where I want to be. And I’m sort of naturally competitive, so once I sink my teeth into something I’m not going to let go.”

Once Ryan got started became hooked and four years later he became a Vinyasa yoga practitioner who can now put his feet behind his head and pretty much do anything else.

One thing that about Ryan is he tends to be quite philosophical about life and what is required to live a healthy life.  He learned from his father that one should strive to live a a balance life, keep you head on straight, don’t let your ego take over you and keep your body healthy.  Also Ryan states that Australians have a natural tendency to look at things in a balanced light and if he was to starts to waver he knows his friends back home would set him straight.

“The yin and the yang — I guess it really is that,” muses Kwanten.  “I think it’s an in-built Australian thing to not try to be someone you’re not. We all know who we are deep down inside,” he says. “If you know who you are, you’re not afraid to be vulnerable.”

It is this natural tendency to be grounded that promotes the inner strength to look beyond the superficial aspects in life.  Perhaps that may be the reason why Australia has produced so many acting superstars: Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Naomi Watts, the late Heath Ledger, Guy Pearce, even Kwanten’s castmate Anna Paquin, just to list a few, are from Australia and nearby New Zealand. Being firmly rooted allows for more fearless inner exploration.  As Ryan states at the end of the interview:

“To be a man means more than having muscles; there’s so much more to being a stand-up guy,” he explains. “I always loved that Ralph Waldo Emerson quote: ‘What lies behind us and what lies before us is small matter compared to what lies within us.”

SOURCE:  Muscle & Body

(Photo credit:  Muscle & Body)

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  • Wes

    Hmm, good interview. Quite informative and Ryan came off sounding quite level headed.